WASHINGTON -- President Bush has announced that the federal government would begin a nationwide campaign to immunize children against preventable diseases by age 2.
Pediatricians and other public health experts said Mr. Bush's proposal was belated and inadequate.
Mr. Bush also announced a federal program intended to reduce infant mortality by increasing the number of women who get prenatal care. This program is called Healthy Start, but Democrats derided it as a "late start," saying it was prompted more by the political calendar than by genuine interest in child health problems. The centerpiece of the new program announced yesterday is a 30-second television commercial saying, "Every 13 minutes another infant dies."
Yesterday's announcements were part of Bush's effort to show an active interest in domestic social and economic problems. Democrats, including Bill Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, say Bush has neglected those problems since he took office.
Mr. Bush's announcements come 11 months after a similar Rose Garden ceremony in which he said he was sending senior officials to six cities to investigate why children were not being vaccinated against measles and other diseases.
Dr. Samuel L. Katz, professor of pediatrics at Duke University and chairman of the Federal Immunization Practices Advisory Committee, said yesterday administration officials "finked out and did not follow through after they had a big Rose Garden show" last year.
"Other than Haiti and Bolivia, we probably have the worst record in the Western Hemisphere of immunizing children in the first two years of life," said Dr. Katz, who was appointed to the advisory panel by Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of Health and Human Services.